The US Supreme Court backed LGBTQIA community members’ rights with a ruling that a longstanding federal law barring workplace discrimination also protects gay and transgender employees.
Specifically, in a 6-3 vote, the justices decided that gay and transgender people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin and religion.
Two conservative justices joined the court’s four liberals in the decision: Neil Gorsuch, a 2017 Donald Trump appointee who wrote the ruling, and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Workplace discrimination is still legal in 28 US states because of the lack of comprehensive measures against employment discrimination. The ruling – in Bostock v. Clayton County – now recognizes new worker protections in federal law.
US has a federal civil rights law that somewhat touches on sex discrimination – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as gender, race, color, national origin and religion.
However, the text of the law bans only “sex” discrimination, not specifically stating discrimination based on a worker’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”.
The LGBTQIA-related cases filed at SCOTUS asked whether concepts like sexual orientation and gender identity – both tightly bound to the concept of sex (meaning gender, not sexual intercourse) – should also be included under its grasp.
Penning the decision, Gorsuch stated that “an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex… Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
Gorsuch added: “By discriminating against homosexuals, the employer intentionally penalizes men for being attracted to men and women for being attracted to women. By discriminating against transgender persons, the employer unavoidably discriminates against persons with one sex identified at birth and another today.”
In October 2019, Outrage Magazine was at Washington, DC in the US when the SCOTUS heard oral arguments on a major civil rights question: Are gay and transgender people covered by the law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex?
It is worth noting that legal developments in many countries – including the Philippines – are affected by those in the US. For instance, when the Philippines’ Supreme Court heard oral arguments on marriage equality in the country, the civil rights movement in the US was mentioned, along with other international laws/statutes pushing for LGBTQIA human rights.
But the LGBTQIA struggle at the SCOTUS isn’t over.
SCOTUS still hasn’t decided on another case – R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC – that asks whether those discriminating should be given leeway to do so because of their religious beliefs.